Since March of last year, we have accepted enormous limits on fundamental freedoms - to travel, to meet with family and friends, and to socialise or take part in events ranging from political protests to football matches. Governments across the UK brought in these restrictions and the public accepted them. Lockdown was put in place to slow down but never to stop the spread of Covid-19 because, like any virus, it is unstoppable. Whatever we do, coronavirus will continue spreading throughout the population so all we can do is slow down the speed at which that happens. This was because a small percentage of sufferers required hospital treatment - and a small percentage is still a large number. If everyone had caught Covid at the same time, then the numbers requiring hospital treatment could have overwhelmed the NHS. The strategy adopted by governments was to “protect the NHS” by slowing down the spread of the virus to a level which did not threaten to overwhelm our health service. The vaccine has now vastly decreased the numbers needing hospital treatment. At rough estimate, based on figures I saw last week, the number of cases requiring hospital treatment is now only one eighth of what it was in January. The NHS is not in danger of being overwhelmed. It has been protected.
There are many people who are angry restrictions have remained in place for as long as they have. “Why”, I am asked, “were things not lifted once the priority groups had been vaccinated?” The answer is the UK Government and devolved administrations wanted to be certain the vaccine was effective against the so-called Indian (Delta plus) variant. We now know it is effective, but we kept restrictions for several extra weeks in order to further increase the numbers getting their jabs. I know some people remain nervous about any relaxation of the rules, perhaps thinking they should stay in place for as long as Covid circulates. I understand their fears but respectfully point out that Covid will spread indefinitely and continue to mutate. Lockdown will not stop this process. With the NHS able to cope, now is the time for us to have back our freedoms and once again start living our lives.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 14 July 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 15 July 2021*